The Experiment Continues

One of the things I like best about my CrossFit+dino-chow lifestyle is that it’s made me much more receptive to the notion of Trying Things.™ When I was a devout Weight Watchers member or following the Zone, for example, I clung to the rules with a grip as tight as the pullup bar, desperate not to slip.

But bodies don’t really follow rules.

And now that I’ve grown accustomed to that idea, I like it! How lovely that my body isn’t just like yours – and yours isn’t just like mine. But because we’re all beautiful and unique, it’s immensely helpful to think of all of this as an experiment to find the best way to care for our bodies, which are really just unpredictable bags of water and hormones that act as a container for our big brains and boundless hearts.

I like to pretend I’m my TV doppleganger: Abby Sciuto from NCIS. In addition to always looking super cute, she has an unrelenting curiosity that helps her find the truth. She doesn’t give up when her first hypothesis doesn’t pan out and she doesn’t cling to her first idea – instead, she continues to experiment until she finds the answer.

If there’s ever a movie of my life, I’d like Pauley Perrette to play me.

Since January 1, I’ve been eating mostly no-cheat Whole30 style. I’ve done two back-to-back, no-cheat 30-day runs, with a few days of indulgence in between them. I’ve also been going to CrossFit class three times each week, and I added a new thyroid hormone prescription into my daily rotation.

The changes in my body have not been dramatic, but there has been some change. My jeans are looser. I’ve celebrated a few PRs. Some days, I have consistent energy from the moment I wake until I sink into the pillows.

But I want more.

I want to be leaner. I want my energy to be consistently high on most days of the week. I want to be stronger, and I want my appearance to reflect that strength.

Based on advice from my pals at Whole9Life (Chase performance.) and Robb Wolf (Watch nut consumption if weight loss is a goal.) and Mark Sisson (17 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight) and the coaches at CrossFit Austin (Lift heavy, rest more, and try more protein.) and my dear friend and fellow thryoid-fighter Erika (Try reducing starchy carbs, even post-workout.), I’m revising my plan.

From now until at least May 1 (Good heavens to Betsy Ross… that will be my 43rd birthday. How did this happen?!), I’m changing my workout schedule and making a few tweaks to my eating habits.

Monday = CrossFit
Tuesday = heavy lifting (this is new! I wanted to do it, but haven’t been consistent.)
Wednesday = rest (this is new!)
Thursday = CrossFit (new!)
Friday = CrossFit
Saturday = walk (new!)
Sunday = rest

This training plan includes more rest and a commitment to heavy lifting on my own once a week to supplement what happens at CrossFit Austin.

In addition to my squeaky clean dino-chow, I’m trying the following:

Only 1 serving of fruit per day. 
On workout days, that’s blackberries after my workout. On rest days, it’s ‘dessert’: half a serving at lunch and half a serving at dinner. I’ve been eating about 2 servings per day, so maybe this small reduction will kick my body into gear.

No nuts, nutbutter, or coconut butter.
I waiver in my ability to eat these things in moderation… and I found myself nibbling instead of mindfully eating them. If I’m really hungry, I should eat. If I’m looking for something to do or a pleasurable experience, I don’t want to turn to macadamia nuts or coconut butter, not matter how tasty they might be. When I reach my body composition goals, I’ll re-introduce nuts and butters as part of my PLANNED meals, but the days of walking into the kitchen and grabbing a spoon need to end.

A little more protein
Not a lot, just a little. The last two weeks, I’ve been stalked by a hunger monster. I felt like I was constantly in a state of either having just eaten or being hungry, so I’m going to try an increase in my protein to help compensate for the increased weight lifting and decreased fruit.

On January 9, I shared my measurements. I was pretty optimistic that day about how eating strict Whole30 and the Circle of Awesomeness Challenge could change my body. But life intervened in the form of thyroid complications and the changes in my body haven’t been as substantial as I’d hoped. On the upside, even with a wonky-donk thyroid, I’m still getting slightly leaner, enjoying my workouts, and growing a little stronger. For those things, I am grateful.

My original plan was to re-measure and photograph myself on April 3, but in light of my revised plan and new prescription, I’m pushin’ that deadline to April 31.

Let the next phase of the experiment begin!

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  • Lindsay says:

    Looks like an awesome plan! Love the blog, it's such an inspiration. Keep up the great work 🙂

  • Marcos Torres says:

    Heavy lifting is a great idea and it will fit in nicely into your program i also dig the walks. i have been doing them 4x a week as soon as i get up for 30 minutes. great plan!

  • Pretty In Primal says:

    Thyroid problems are a bitch (I have Hashimoto's). Have you checked out Datis Kharrazian's thyroid book?
    It's so far ahead of the curve and addresses every possible angle of thyroid disease. I've been able to break some plateaus since I've been on his immune balancing protocol. I'm not on meds, just specific supplements and diet (under the supervision of a doc trained in functional endocrinology).
    I feel a lot more like a "normal" person;-)

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Thanks, Lindsay! I'll definitely keep you posted on my progress.

    Marcos –> I've been thinking about all the stuff I've read about how sitting all day is bad for us… how movement in addition to training is a good idea… so my Saturday walks are a move in that direction. After May, I'm going to try to incorporate a walk on the other days of the week, too. But for now, if I can get in one, I'll feel good about it.

    Pretty in Primal –> I have read that book! Thanks for asking… it's great to share that tip with other readers. Thyroid stuff really does suck, but I feel like good information is being shared among our clean eating community now, and it's helping a lot.

  • morten_g says:

    We have the same birthday! Yay! 31st for me on May 1st.

    If you are burning less fat than you want maybe try pushing breakfast to around 10 am. Info on Martin Berkhan's

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    YAY! Don'tcha love having your bday on May 1? I think it's an awesome day for celebrating.

    Thanks to the link! I'll go check it out.

  • Heather Smith says:

    Mel, you are really inspiring! I have been having one of those days where I have just felt really down about myself and the progress I'm making, and this post def helped get me out of whining mode and back into action mode! I will be adding some walks to my weekly regimen and a couple of other tips from Mark Sisson's article you linked, namely the sprinting and the intermittent fasting 1 day a week. Thanks and You Rock!

  • Brenda says:

    I just had to comment on the picture of Abby. From the first time I saw your blog I thought you looked like Abby and then today there is a picture of her. Too cute.

  • Chia says:

    Thank you! This post was so motivational. Things not going exactly how you planned… do you give up? Hell no! You're back at it, switching and tweaking things to make forward progress. Thanks for sharing all those links, then how you applied the info. Its soooo helpful – it is like you're hacking your way across the jungle with a big machete, then you look back over your shoulder and say, "c'mon this way!" As usual, you kick butt – keep hacking!

  • Cindy says:

    Melissa good luck. I am right there with you. turned 50 this year, had my thyroid removed 7 years ago and have not been able to get lean. Getting back on track with Crossfit and starting an 8 week heavy lifting program. Also, need to clean up my Paleo eating a bit more.
    Thank you for your post!!

  • Mindy says:

    Your list is exactly what I've been thinking. I'm trying to lose a little and lean out, too–and am not quite where I'd hoped to be today. As the bumper sticker used to say, you've got a friend in Pennsylvania…lifting more, tweaking the food, keeping an eye on the goal. Good luck, and thanks for the inspiration!

  • Christy says:

    i think you're definitely making the right changes. since the beginning of the challenge i made the following changes: started going 4 times a week instead of 3, ate bacon EVERY morning (which has curbed almost all snacking urges!), and i gave up lara bars – i was eating almost one a day. i got my measurements back and i lost 3% body fat from those simple changes. love your blog!!

  • Tracy says:

    You are very inspiring. I read your blog every day and you always post the most fascinating stuff! And there is NO WAY you are close to 43. No. Way. I would have guessed 28 from your picture, maybe 30. Maybe my age-gauge is broken? 🙂

    Either way, I started Whole30 a week ago and your blog has been one of the things helping me along.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Heather –> Sorry to hear you were having an off day, but I'm super glad to hear the links helped. Sometimes just taking in some new info can spark new ideas and — most importantly — new resolve. It's so much easier to feel like we can take action than to just pout. Although, as you know, I highly recommend pouting sometimes, too! Keep us posted on how you're doing!

    Brenda –> Fun! I wish I had Paulie Perrette's height and her NCIS wardrobe budget. I think it would be so much fun to meet her and have a photo taken of us in ponytails together!

    Chia –> Thank YOU! I'm glad you found the post helpful. I have a really bad habit of digging in my heels and clinging to a plan — much better to give a plan a good run, then adapt it. But man! It can be so hard. Thank you for the visual image of the machete; I'm totally going to use that one to keep myself motivated.

    Cindy –> Man! I made myself a promise that I wasn't going to whine about aging anymore, but I will say this about growing older: it's weird. It's just WEIRD. I had my thyroid removed, too… and that's totally freaking weird also. Congratulations on CrossFitting and lifting heavy and continuing to push!

    Mindy –> Right on, Pennsylvanians! I'll be thinking of you when I hit the gym for heavy lifting tomorrow… good luck to you, too!

    Christy –> Congratulations on your body fat loss. WOOT! You must feel good about that. Increasing fat and protein in my breakfast really does help get me through the morning, and yeah, I stopped buying Larabars, too. I wasn't eating them very often — and I only ate them 1/2 at a time — but I realized I would be better off eating olives and vegetables, instead of nuts and dried fruit. Glad you like the blog! Thanks!

    Tracy –> I think your age-gauge is perfect, actually 🙂 It's so nice to know you read my ramblings every day… and you are a sweet talker. Thank you! Good luck on your Whole30! Definitely keep me posted on how you're doing!

  • robynk16 says:

    Melissa, my friend introduced me to your blog after I started Paleo a few weeks ago. I find it really helpful and inspiring to read your insightful and entertaining posts each day!

    I had a similar revelation in the last couple days about nut butter. I kept diving into the jar of almond butter, and I realized it would be a good idea to take a break from it.

    From talking to my friends, I think that the time change last week has also affected many of us – both in terms of energy and appetite. So hopefully in a week or so when we've adjusted we'll be back on track! – Robyn

  • jacqueline says:

    I love your blog! I just hit the 30 day mark after going Primal BP last month, and like you, have lost practically nothing, but have looser clothes. I'm pretty clean, haven't cheated more than 1x, but the weight loss isnt happening! I'm encouraged to NOT quit though (and thanks to your blog for that added boost too!).

    I have about 1-2 servings of berries daily (not a big fruit eater) maybe 1 banana a week after a tough workout, but I eat maybe 2 or 3 servings of nuts a day (the Trader Joe's packs of cashews, almonds, cranberries + the Thai chili lime cashews). In lieu of nuts…what are we going to eat? It's my pleasure of the day! LOL

    And yes, coconut butter (especially in those individual squeeze packs) is bad news that's hard to stop eating! when I bough a jar of the stuff I found it's really not all that easy to eat! Nice for coconut pancakes though.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Robyn –> Glad you find my blog and that you're enjoying it! I ate the last of a jar of maple almond butter (OMG) on Sunday night and have banished the butters from the house. All of the nuts are on a super high shelf that only my tall husband can reach. I think I should be safe for a while 😉 And yes, the time change thing is always disconcerting!

    Jacqueline –> Congratulations on 30 days! In lieu of huts, I'm having more olives and more homemade mayo! I didn't know about the coconut butter in squeeze packs before… now I kinda wish I didn't 🙂 I really got into making homemade coconut butter, but seriously, I think I was treating it like candy. A spoonful here and there when I wanted a treat. Way better to eat meals and snacks and not spontaneously snarf a tablespoon of coconut butter, no matter how good it tastes.


  • Brittany says:


    Can you share some other favorite snack ideas? I'm easing up on fruit and nuts, too, and although I like the idea of eating mini-meals for snacks, that doesn't exactly fly at work. Meaning: I'd rather not bolt down some tuna salad in my cube. Thanks for the constant inspiration and the uplifting attitude! You rock!

  • jacqueline says:

    Melissa – The coconut butter in the little packs was definitely bad news! DO NOT go seek it out LOL. It's a lot less convenient to dig it out of the jar – since I bought the jar I've only *snacked* on it once because it's just not AS easy to get to.

    Other easy snacks – a hard boiled egg & a piece of beef jerky (careful, lots of them have added sugar). I buy the pre-cooked & peeled eggs at Trader Joe's. Easy to throw in a ziplock. I've also done the boiled egg w/a few pieces of avocado w/salt & pepper.

    Not a conventional *snack* but it gets the job done.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Brittany –> My favorite snack to bring to work is a sort of "antipasto" pack. I often need to eat my snacks during meetings, so I don't like to microwave stuff and have the aroma wafting around the room. The antipasto snack pack is usually grilled chicken or sausage cut into bite-sized cubes, olives, and a bunch of raw veggies. Hard-boiled eggs cut into wedges work great, too. I bring extra veggies because more often than not, some co-worker will say, Oooooh! Cucumbers!" and steal some.

    Jacqueline –> I promise NOT to look for the coconut butter squeeze packs.

  • The Wells Family says:

    Looks like a great plan of attack! I should follow that advice too. I'm sorta at my own little plateau.

    Ahhh, the nuts and the butters. Those are my weakness.

    Good luck to you! I can't wait to see what happens come April 30th!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Thank you for the good luck! I'm fighting mightily to feel good about what I'm doing and not get too hung up on the outcome. But MAN! I want the lean outcome!!!

  • jeanyemercer says:

    Just today I was thinking about you and your progress on your no-goal plan. And I was wondering about your reasoning for cutting out nuts and seeds. Now I know!

    Best wishes for lots of lean. 🙂


  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    jeanye! Hi! Yes, the quest for leanness continues. WOOT!

  • Kat says:

    I love it that you think you look like Abbie on NCIS! From the first time I read your blog & saw your picture I though of her immediately.

  • Kimberly says:

    Did cutting down on the nuts and fruit do the trick for you? I’m finding myself eating a fair amount of both and not getting the weight loss results I expect – though I haven’t dialed in the exercise as I should. Nuts are such a go-to food for me.

    • Mel says:

      Hey, Kimberly. I haven’t lost a ton of weight yet or anything, but I FEEL better. I eat a grapefruit every day ’cause I love them — but have stopped eating nuts. Nuts can be a problem for some people because they are higher in omega-6 fatty acids which can cause inflammation… and that can mean it’s harder to lose weight. You might try experimenting with other fat sources for a while to see if that makes a difference for you. Everyone is different so you have to experiment on yourself.